The View of Women in Japan Posted by on Apr 26, 2010 in Culture

A woman by the name of Rina Bovrisse is causing some controversy in the fashion industry. A quick Google search of Japan + Prada shows just how “ugly” some of the accusations are. Bovrisse, a senior retail manager for Prada Japan, claims that she was told by the Prada Japan CEO to fire individuals who were “old, fat, ugly, [and] disgusting”. Bovrisse herself was told to “lose weight”. It’s not looking good for Prada Japan. You see, two more individuals stepped forward to file the same suit against Prada Japan.

An even more shocking claim in the Daily Finance is being made that, Hiroyuki Takahashi, the senior human resources manager for Prada Japan, was overheard saying that “Females over 30 without husbands and children are disgusting”. Although this issue focuses on whether there was any discrimination towards women in the workplace, I wonder if this issue is more societal in nature. There’s an old Japanese proverb called 良妻賢母 (ryōsai kenbo). The proverb means, “good wife, wise mother”.

The proverb is supposed to represent the ideal woman, one who is a wife and mother. To me, the proverb itself isn’t that offensive, but what about the common Japanese expression about “Christmas cake”? For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, have you ever heard the saying, “Japanese women are like Christmas cake, they’re hard to dispose of after the 25th”. The 25th alludes to Christmas day and how cakes are hard to sell after Christmas, and to tie it in, it’s also saying that women who are 25 or older are less appealing as prospective marriage partners.

Even women like 倖田 來未 (Kōda Kumi), a famous pop star with a successful career and adoring fans, was criticized for her comment that “When women turn 35, their amniotic fluid goes rotten, so I’d like to have a child by 35”. Who knows, maybe the singer was trying to make a comment that it’s harder to have a child at age 35, by saying the “rotten” comment. Either way, the public wasn’t amused and she was forced to apologize for her statement. The question is, how normal is this view of women in Japan? Go ahead, I’d love to hear your views in the comments section.

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  1. Luke:

    Interesting. I wouldn’t say it’s all-pervasive, but I can say that when I worked in Japan for a well-known eikaiwa (that just collapsed) the Kaicho would regularly say that women who got fat “were sick in the mind and must go to a hospital,” and that if they didn’t wear make-up they should not come to work.

    This wasn’t a one-off thing, this was a well-known and openly-made statement, though at least most of the people I know just laughed it off, refusing to take him seriously.

  2. ZaruSoba:

    I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to somewhat agree with the Japanese on this one. As rudely as they worded it (it could have been said differently), there’s some truth to it, at least in my opinion. Someone who is grossly overweight shows a lack of respect for their body and the initiative to make healthy choices for it. Unless you are old and have extreme health problems that prevent you from exercising, there’s no reason why you can’t take better care of your body than that. This is where I disagree, though..”old,” and “ugly,” is just wrong. Aging is a natural process that can’t be prevented, and it most certainly does not make a person disgusting. Ugly…well…that’s something that can’t be helped unless you have money for plastic surgery, and shouldn’t be a basis for discrimination anyways. Now, what Koda Kumi said…there’s truth to that…but once again, poor wording. Most women who are familiar with the way their reproductive system works, and who paid attention in sex. ed. know that at the age of 35/36 a child born from that woman has a much higher chance of being born with birth defects – particularly, down syndrome. I think it’s nice she’s filing a complaint about this, but I don’t think she will get very far…especially when you consider that this is THEIR culture. It’s harsh, but if you don’t like it, why are you there?

  3. G:

    Well, this doesn’t go far enough…This goes for men too. I am disgusted by balding men, with belly overhang..and drooping jowls. Short men especially are offensive and people too poor to dress properly need to stay off of the street. I am sick and tired of looking at people not fit to be within my eyesight. This needs to be a worldwide thing. And no disabled people in public. I am sick of getting stuck behind some disgustingly deformed disabled person who slows me down while they have to adjust their wheel chairs.
    This world is only fit for tall, good looking, slim healthy people. Everyone else should just do us a favor and kill themselves.
    ( Just in case, I am being facetious) and I am satirizing the insane hateful attitudes towards others about weight and or looks. Look to your hearts and souls you judging ones..does it occur to you that your hearts and souls are ugly and repugnent to G*d ??

  4. ZaruSoba:

    I agree, this does apply to men as well…but I don’t think I specified women only in my comment. However, first things first….not everyone believes in “God” nor feels the need to look good for him, whoever he is. Secondly, I don’t believe that people who can’t do anything about their situation aren’t fit for the world, but you do have to acknowledge that people who ARE obese, CAN do something about it, and DON’T give a fuck show a general lack of respect for themselves, so why should I or anyone else care? That’s not being hateful, that’s being realistic…something Americans lack, and is part of the reason why our nation is overrun with obesity. They’ve turned it into a disease…sure, it’s a disease…a disease of the lazy who don’t care about their own health enough to learn how to cook and stay away from fast food outside the occasional pleasure run. A disease of those who can’t even take 30 minutes a day to walk around outside instead of spend it in front of the television. Yeah…a disease…